Angelenos will take to the polls this coming Tuesday to decide on a series of races that will impact the future of the city, state and nation. No race is more consequential for the City of Los Angeles than the election of the next mayor, who will replace the current termed-out mayor Eric Garcetti. Developer Rick Caruso will face off against Karen Bass in the tight race. Bass, an LA native, has a long resume of political experience. Here are six interesting facts about LA Mayor candidate Karen Bass:
She’s a been a titan in the California Assembly and the U.S. House of Representatives
Bass, a Democrat, won her first race for Assembly in 2004, representing the 47th District which covers portions of west, central and south LA. She was re-elected to two more two-years terms, serving in leadership as the Majority Whip in ’05-06 and Majority Floor Leader in ’07-08. In 2008, she became the Assembly Speaker, one of the three most powerful positions in California government along with Governor and Senate President. Bass’ Speakership came during the 2008 California Budget Crisis, a highly contentious and consequential time in state government.
After terming out of the Assembly in 2010, Bass was elected to represent California’s 33rd Congressional District (later redistricted to the 37th District) and remains in the House to this day, being re-elected five times. She served on a number of powerful committees and was the first woman to serve as Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus when she took the reigns in 2019.
She was on the (very) short list to be Biden’s VP
During the 2020 presidential campaign, then-candidate Joe Biden made the promise that should he get the Democrat nomination, he would choose a Black female running mate. That list was later shortened to three names: then-CA Senator Kamala Harris, former National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Karen Bass.
It was widely reported that Harris campaigned vociferously for the VP nod, and during the vetting process, a video surfaced of Bass speaking glowingly of Scientology at an opening of a Los Angeles center. (You may recognize the speech from the anti-Bass campaign ad put out by the Caruso campaign.) Bass massaged the Scientology appearance, noting that, “Since then, published first-hand accounts in books, interviews and documentaries have exposed this group.”
Bass noted she isn’t a Scientologist and attends First New Christian Fellowship Baptist Church in South LA.
Biden eventually selected fellow presidential candidate Kamala Harris. Once Biden became president, Bass’ name was floated as a possible for a cabinet post, but she ultimately wasn’t nominated.
She’s an insider in state and national politics — but in the LA mayor race, she’s the outsider
Counter to the common narrative, Bass is the outsider of the two candidates vying for LA mayor. This is opposite of how both campaigns have attempted to characterize their candidates, with Bass trying to court voters by portraying herself as the seasoned political leader, while Caruso playing to a different voting demographic by portraying himself as a businessman and political outsider.
In reality, those roles are reversed. That’s because despite her lengthy experience in state and federal government, Bass has never been elected to city government. As Zocalo Public Square explains, “Federal and state legislators like Bass may be familiar to Angelenos and other Californians as political figures—and thus seem like local insiders—but their work lives have very little to do with local government.”
On the other hand, her opponent, Rick Caruso — despite never getting elected to public office — has been a regular figure at City Hall for decades in his role as a developer and city commissioner.
It’s up to voters to decide if they consider local political experience as a benefit or hinderance.
Before she became a politician, Bass was a physician’s assistant and volunteered for a Pro-Cuba group
Bass graduated from Hamilton High, has a BS in Health Science from Cal State Dominguez Hills, a Masters in Social Work from USC and is a graduate of USC’s Physician’s Assistant program. Before she became an elected official she worked as a physician’s assistant, nurse and USC instructor.
In the 1970s, Tablet reports Bass was “a ‘brigadista’ and then organizer for the Venceremos Brigades,” and visited Fidel Castro’s Cuba “every 6 months” for a total eight times. The Venceremos Brigades was a pro-Cuba group that organized work trips to Cuba for young American leftists, reports the Atlantic.
One of the most interesting facts about LA Mayor candidate Karen Bass: she’s a gun owner
In September, Bass’s home was broken into, with thieves stealing two handguns. Bass’ office noted that the guns were legally registered and stored in a locked box. Bass said she had guns for personal safety and according to the L.A. Times, “Bass first learned how to handle a weapon in Los Angeles in the late 1970s when she was a California organizer for the Venceremos Brigade … She said an LAPD officer taught her.”
In a debate prior to the break in, Bass was asked how safe she felt walking around neighborhood on a scale of 1-10, to which she responded “10.”
Following the break in, Bass stated the violation made her feel like her sense of “safety was shattered.”
Bass isn’t married and had a daughter that passed away in 2006
Bass married Jesus Lechuga in 1980, with whom she had one biological daughter, Emilia. The couple divorced in 1986, but Bass remained co-parents with Lechuga of Emilia and four other of Lechuga’s children. Sadly, Emilia and her husband passed away in a car accident in 2006, both at age 23. On Bass’ congressional website, she notes that she remains inspired by Emilia, who “planned to follow in her mother’s footsteps working for social change.” She has two grandchildren from her step-kids.
Before you make your election-day decisions, learn about Bass’ opponent in our write-up 6 interesting facts about Rick Caruso
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